St. Francis Xavier – Man of his Times but a Saint for our Times

Image Source: Catholic Outlook

The feast of St. Francis Xavier, fondly hailed as Goycho Saib brings Goans of all walks of life  to Old Goa.  Besides, young and old Goans, people from different parts of our  country as well as abroad flock for the Novena and Feast. Along with the regular Konkani and English liturgical celebrations, we have  liturgical services in Hindi, Marathi, Tamil,  Malayalam ,Telugu , Kannada, French , Italian, Portuguese and Spanish . The range of languages manifests the kind of pilgrims who come to honour the great saint.  Most Goans feel an unique call that brings them to Old Goa at  least once during the Novena or the feast with their families.  St Francis Xavier  is inscribed in the ordinary life of Goans who see him as the protector of Goa. The Saint continues to inspire and edify tens and thousands  of people and  is one of the most popular saint in Asia.  We can find scores of schools , colleges and universities named after him and the Saint is venerated as the patron saint  of several parishes . Besides  being a model of missionary zeal, the saint  becomes a great example of conversion. His entire life is dramatic in character but his initial struggle , caution and resistance to the influence of St. Ignatius and the final conversion to God continues to become a living message that  inspires  thousands even today.  

St Francis came as a substitute missionary in place of a sick companion Bobadilla but God and the people of Asia made him (un)subsitutable . He was a man in a hurry. His love for Jesus Christ and the compassion for the people knew no bounds. In Goa he served the sick in the hospital and evangelised the children in the surrounding villages. His missionary labours bore fruits , the children brought their parents to him and several Goans were baptised.  It is said that he was disillusioned with the quality of Christian life of the Portuguese authorities and merchants  in Goa and did not stay in Goa for long. He travelled down south and worked with the poor fishing community and converted them enmass. His missionary sojourns in Japan, Malacca and Moluccas  are well known. His thirst for missionary work led him to sail to China but as God would have it he did not reach  his covetous destination. He died on the island of  Sancian looking at China, the land of his dreams. With the name of Jesus on his lips he gave his life in the hands of God. God rewarded him for his great sacrifices and heroic life and his body remained incorruptible and completely fresh. It was brought to Goa via Malacca and now  his sacred relics are venerated by ten and thousands of people in the Basilica  of Bon Jesus in Old Goa.  He was beatified in October 1619 and canonized on March 12th 1622 along with Ignatius of Loyola.   

The letters of St Francis Xavier and hagiographies of his life ignite the faith of  Catholics down the centuries.  They present his heroic life of profound spiritual depth. He  lived the Jesuit charisma of contemplative action and magis  to perfection.  He followed Ignatian  dictum that exhorted the Jesuit to enter through the door of the people but bring them out through the door of Christ. He worked hard to multiply his effect  and influence by influencing  the influential. But in all things he displays matchless trust in God’s providence.  We can look at the life of St. Francis as a spiritual journey. It had it’s ups and downs. He did display misunderstanding of the ways of the people of the east. We may have issues with his theology of mission and consider our own more enlightened. Yet we cannot take away from him his sheer courage, his deep faith , all embracing compassion and profound zeal for missions. He is certainly a man of his times , but continues to be saint for our times.  Several of his battles still remain un-fought.  His struggle against caste and moral degradation continues to challenge all Catholics even today. He seems to be telling us in silence that we cannot serve Christ and Caste at the same time. We are still challenged to shun aside both moral as well as practical relativism today. He continues to unite us in Old Goa and challenges to live in harmony and peace with all.  His presence in Goa and his heroic saintly life continues to draws us all to God and the Gospel. May Francis Xavier continue to Pray for Us all.  Happy feast to all!

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao